TORONTO – The roller-coaster start to Darel Russell’s MLS career hit a thankful high on Saturday.
A week after his last-minute mistake in his first start for Toronto FC allowed the visiting LA Galaxy to snatch a draw, the English right back was an unlikely hero as the Reds pulled out a miraculous 2-2 draw against an FC Dallas side that had dominated play for almost the entirety of the match.
Russell’s highlight-reel rocket a minute into stoppage time completed an unlikely comeback for TFC, who had been trailing 2-0 until the 86th minute.
“Football is a funny game, isn’t it?” mused Toronto head coach Ryan Nelsen. “It can be heartbreaking one week and absolutely as sweet as anything the next.”
Redemption was the name of the game for Russell, who was pleased to rewrite his own script after he had endured another afternoon in which he made his share of struggles on the defensive side of the game.
“I made a mistake last week and we ended up drawing,” he told reporters after Saturday’s 2-2 draw. “This week, I redeemed myself and it almost feels like a win after being 2-0 down. There was only one thought in my mind when I saw the ball coming over and that was to control the ball and have a go at it late in the game.”
The former Norwich City you product admitted that the criticism he received following the LA game was something that only spurred him and motivated him to improve with a better performance this week.
“I quickly put the mistakes that happened behind me and focused on getting better for the next game,” Russell said. “You are always going to have critics and that never worries me. I relish them and try to prove them wrong.”
As a player who has now made the leap from goat to hero over the course of a single week, hw was all smiles in the TFC locker room after the game, admitting that his game-tying goal felt wonderful on multiple levels.
“It is definitely going to rank up there,” he said when asked where his goal ranked in his career. “It was also my first for Toronto, so hopefully I can add [more] to that. It felt really good.
“It’s like a boxer when they hit a great punch. It came off the foot well. I saw the back of the net ripple and that was good enough for me.”